Problem solving – Big Bird style

Looking at holiday pictures this week reminded me of the story my mother told for years. It was about the time that Big Bird invoked my curiosity and a lifetime interest in problem solving. It was Christmas Eve, 1977. I was so excited; I had received the Bradley Big Bird Talking Alarm Clock. It had to be wound like the formal clock on the hearth, not something I was allowed to do at age five. I took the oversize green key and immediately found the place to wind up the toy clock. It began ticking loudly, to my parents’ despair. They taught me how to set the alarm and I was amazed when it sounded and Big Bird announced – “Wake up, It’s me, Big Bird and it’s time to get up!”

Something inside that clock was making it talk. Curiosity set in and I was determined to learn more about this toy. The adults continued to enjoy the night and I tiptoed off to my father’s workshop to find a few tools. With a Philips screwdriver in hand, I removed the obvious two fasteners keeping me from seeing what created the voice. It was that easy, I was in. There were wires, gears and electrical components along with a few more clips and screws. I played the alarm and listened. I found it. The voice was coming from a pink box. I pulled the pink box from the clock. The voice whirred to a stop.

Oh no! I knew I was in trouble.This toy was less than an hour old and I had destroyed it. I hid it in the workshop and quickly went back to the living room to play with the other toys. It did not take my parents long to notice the missing clock and learn of my curiosity. My mother decided that I would have to reassemble the clock before I could play with any other toy. I sat at the dining room table till the wee hours of the morning trying one combination after another of attaching the little wires and snapping everything back together. Finally it worked! I had it put back together. Problem solved, and the reward sat in the living room. Back to all my other toys.

This clock sits on my desk to this day to remind me that any problem can be solved no matter how high the stress level if you have the passion for a solution and the persistence to get it done. The Big Bird clock is one of my leadership tokens.

I have my parents to thank for driving my intellectual curiosity, forcing me to solve my own problems and giving me the incentives to make me persistent in everything that I do.

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4 thoughts on “Problem solving – Big Bird style

  1. Ken,
    Love the Big Bird story. I tweeted this post. We are in Troubleshooters week and it was such nice timing. I’ll share it as part of this week’s theme!

    • Jill,
      That is great to hear. To be a troubleshooter you have to first be curious and find the opportunities and problems to address. I’m sure in your daily interaction with top sales leaders, you find curiosity is a must have competency.

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